It’s almost as if Ryan Farrell is protecting a secret identity.
We don’t really know who, or what, the Calgary actor is playing in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, the superheroically hyped superhero series that will begin streaming Nov. 20 on Netflix. All we know is that Farrell plays a recurring character named Jackson. Other than that, Marvel and Netflix have more or less insisted the 34-year-old actor take a vow of silence when it comes to talking about his participation in the series, which stars Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter in the titular role.
“I can’t say exactly how I’m involved,” says Farrell, in an interview from his home in New York City. “I’m in it. It’ a recurring role. I can tell you it comes out Nov. 20 and it’s looking really good. It’s really exciting. I wish I could elaborate more.”
Marvel and Netflix may want their actors to keep quiet about the series, but their publicity departments have been going into overdrive to promote it. As part of Marvel’s ever-expanding TV and film universe, Jessica Jones will have ties to Netflix’s most recent superhero triumph, Daredevil. They are the first two in what will eventually be five series. Marvel’s Luke Cage and Marvel’s Iron Fist will follow before all four join in an Avengers-like fit of cross-pollination called Marvel’s The Defenders.
All 13 episodes of Jessica Jones will be available Nov. 20 for convenient binge-watching, telling the story of a former superhero who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and opens a detective agency.
“It’s going to be pretty dark, with much more adult content than you’re used to seeing in comic book movies on the big screen,” Farrell says. “But it’s really engaging, with a bit of noir quality to it.”
While it’s not entirely clear how big a role Farrell plays, it is clear that Jessica Jones is one of the bigger projects he has been involved in. But it’s been a pretty good couple of years in general for the Lester B. Pearson High School grad. At the time of this interview, he had just returned from Philadelphia, where he was shooting a lead role in an indie comedy called Zeroes.
He plays a man who foils a bank robbery with his roommate, which disastrously inspire the duo to become superheroes. Before that he shot a lead role in The App, a sci-fi cautionary tale about the “ultimate App” that gives users a feeling of bliss. Earlier this year, he had a small but pivotal role opposite Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck.
It was not the first time Farrell has played opposite Schumer. He has appeared in all three seasons of her hit Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, including the pilot where he appeared in a skit skewering The Bachelor.
In fact, comedy has become a bit of a focus for the actor, who is currently shopping a single-camera sitcom he wrote with his wife to networks and performs once a month as part of New York’s sketch-comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade.
This wasn’t the initial plan for the Farrell, who moved to the Big Apple 12 years ago to attend theatre school after taking a few courses at Calgary’s Company of Rogues Actors’ Studio.
“When every actor gets out of theatre school, they think they are going to be like Sean Penn or something, just a brooding, serious actor,” he said. “When I started out I just wanted to do all these dark plays. But, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m Canadian but I’ve learned that I don’t have the ability to take myself that seriously, so I started doing more comedy.”
This came in handy in 2009, when Farrell caused a minor stir as television pitchman Budd Light. The popular spots featured Farrell, again in vague superhero mode, sporting a fearfully tight jumpsuit and being called to action whenever outside forces threatened the revelry and mirth of a Budweiser party.
The spots offered Farrell his first taste of validation among his Calgary friends, who knew him as an up-and-coming hockey player rather than fledgling actor when he was growing up in the city.
Farrell was playing right-wing for the Calgary Royals when he was injured, putting him on the sidelines for a year and a half and dashing his NHL hopes. He was attending Mount Royal College at the time and took some acting classes. Later, he was convinced by instructors at the Company of Rogues to try out for theatre school in New York, which led to him attending the prestigious Circle in the Square.
He never looked back, doing everything from Shakespeare to soap operas to commercials.
“There’s an acting teacher named Sanford Meisner who said it takes 10 years to become an actor,” Farrell says. “I remember reading that when I was starting out and I was slightly daunted and also slightly defiant. I was like ‘No way, I’m going to do it sooner.’ But a few years out in the real world, and especially in New York City, and yeah that’s probably pretty accurate. It’s a tough city but it’s also an amazing city. I feel like it definitely builds character. There’s a lot of ups and downs, particularly in the early going and especially for a kid from Calgary.”